IPod '09 rumours begin

The current iPod family

The current iPod family

It’s May and we are starting to get rumours of this year’s iPods. For the last few years without fail, Apple has unveiled a new range of iPods in September. And every year, Apple fanatics try to piece together leaked tips from inside the Apple bubble and predict what is coming.

Generally, it is considered Apple’s ’08 refresh was a disappointment. The year before they launched the game-changing iPod Touch. They also made a 160GB iPod classic with a new interface, making the core device pretty much untouchable. Nanos and the Shuffle continued strong. Last year’s addition of the Genius function and a new shape for the Nano failed to set the world alight.

The first rumours we are hearing is from Macrumours. The addition of a camera in the iPod Touch and maybe even the Nano. It seems pretty certain that the new iPhones will have VIDEO camera capabilities. This could be a cool new feature in the iPod product line. The other rumour is the rainbow range of colours across all lines.

We’re not sure it’s a big enough change to impress the world at large. But then again, what is? The iPod works so well – the fact that it just works is one of the reasons it’s the best in the business.

What we would like to see? The classic/nano interface could be vastly improved. Better cataloging for video and podcasts. We see the thousands of new features for the new iPhone and we wonder if the iPod is being left behind. We hope not.

We’ll find out in September.

Apple UK –http://www.apple.com/uk/

"Use It As You Will": anarchy and the blank CD

Brian Joseph Burton a.k.a. Danger Mouse

Brian Joseph Burton a.k.a. Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse are releasing a new album – a blank CD.

What?

Seems like their new collaboration, Dark Night Of the Soul got caught up in red tape and the label, EMI, has killed it.

Lucky for Danger Mouse, he is an inspired bugger. The full package, with 100 page book is coming out, with a blank CDR and the brilliant instructions “use it as you will”. The record company cannot stop them.

Danger Mouse is, of course, one of the most in-demand producers right now. Yet he’s had a mischievous, anarchist side. He’s a hit maker with Gnarls Barkley, but will take on producing a garage rock album with Beck. He famously made his name with a mash-up album of Jay-Z and the Beatles (the Grey Album). Sparklehorse is pretty much just Mark Linkous these days. Sparklehorse made a couple of fantastic albums in the late 90s but have been mainly quiet. Linkous’s last major project outside of Sparklehorse was a Daniel Johnston tribute.

The Dark Night Of the Soul has been on our list of things to check out, mainly due to the insane line-up of guests. Iggy Pop, Frank Black, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Vic Chesnutt, The Flaming Lips, Jason Lytle (of Grandaddy), James Mercer of The Shins, Nina Persson of The Cardigans, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Suzanne Vega.

Danger Mouse especially has a track record going off course. The Grey Album was a perfect example. A limited edition album, with no cleared samples, was all over the internet. It was the first time Mr Mouse clashed with EMI. Dark Night… was released as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-stream. To be honest, we think Danger Mouse is more careless than clever with how he gets his music out there. We are still watching though.

So how will people use that blank CD? The crushing subtext is for people to download and burn their own copies. The finished record will no doubt hit the internet very soon. But who will actually burn it to disc? In the era of huge, affordable harddrives, is anyone backing up to CD? Will this experiment work? Will anyone actually buy a blank CD?

Use it as you will. As anachistic as all this is, we think most people will throw that blank CD in the bin, if not leave it in the shops.

Dark Night Of the Soul site –http://www.dnots.com/

Danger Mouse official site –http://www.dangermousesite.com/

Sparklehorse –http://www.sparklehorse.com/

Wilco (The leak, the response, the legends)

Wilco (the Album) featuring Wilco (the Camel)

Wilco (the Album) featuring Wilco (the Camel)

Wilco are one of the finest bands going around right now. It’s not just their awesome recordings, the amazing live shows, or that brilliant voice. We love their approach. Case in point, this week when they discovered that their record, Wilco (the Album) had leaked. What to do? Well, might as well put it up on our website (as a stream). And ask for donations. to someone else.

Here’s what Wilco sent out to their mailing list:

Well, we made it nearly a month with copies of Wilco (the album) floating around out there before it leaked. Pretty impressive restraint in this day and age. But the inevitable happened last night. Since we know you’re curious and probably have better things to do than scour the internet for a download (though we do understand the attraction of the illicit), we’ve posted a stream of the full album at http://wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/ . Feel free to refer to it as “wilco (the stream)” if you must.

We also have our usual guilt abatement plan for downloaders. If you have downloaded the record, we suggest you make a donation to one of the band’s favorite charities, the Inspiration Corporation — an organization we’ve supported in the past & who are doing great work in the city of Chicago. Information and donation button here: http://inspirationcorp.org/.

That’s all. Enjoy the stream.

They’ve backed it all up with a pretty fantastic album package. The vinyl with bonus CD for $20US.

Let’s face it, it’s the hardcore fans who love the band who will move mountains to hear the music. It’s those same fans that will go out and buy the awesome package when it’s out in a few weeks. And they love the band enough to support their charities as well. It’s not the first time Wilco have done this, and it seems like standard procedure for the band now. All this talk of new models for how bands can work – we think this is one of the best.

By the way – we are really loving the album. Go have a listen! http://beta.wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/index.php

A very dry article on the ‘net buzz at Billboard

And the official Wilco website with links to pre-order the new album – http://www.wilcoworld.net

The gold rush: Neil Young's Archives

Neil Young Archives - due June 1st

Neil Young's Archives - due 1st June

We never thought we would see the day. On June 1st, if everything goes according to plan, Neil Young will release the mammoth, 10 disc, £200+ box set called Archives. It’s been over 20 years in the making.

We first heard about this box set in a Mojo interview from 1995 (issue 25, those playing at home). That issue explains that Archives started life as Decade II (the follow-up to the almost flawless 3 LP compilation of Young’s early works), but quickly ballooned to a 20 CD set. Also in that article, Young claims “confidently” that the first volume would be out in…1996.

Years of waiting ensued. Every few years, and in just about every interview, Young would claim a release date. But nothing ever saw the light of day. Until now.

A year back, however, the biggest controversy of the project hit – there would be no CD version. Initially, it was to be only two versions, either 10 DVDs or 10 Bu-Rays.

Fans went into an uproar. Was Young being elitist? Who even had an expensive Blu-Ray player? On one hand, it seemed like Young was making a set for his baby boomer crowd only. On the other, he stands by the quality of Blu-Ray. He’s always been a stickler for sound quality, and the interface is supposed to be mind-blowing.

We were mainly worried about how we were going to rip the 10 Blu-Ray discs, but we’re sure some clever person will do it and put it all over the internet. This is what will inevitably happen when you don’t give people what they want. But in the end, Young relented, and a third, 8 CD version is also due. Mp3s will come with the DVD and BR versions.

So what is on this thing? No less than Young‘s entire career up to 1972, up to and including tracks from his blockbuster album, Harvest. 3 previously released live albums as well as all the great tracks and singles from those 70s albums, various collaborations from the era (CSN, Buffalo Springfield). Plus a full disc of teenage Neil in high school bands and a DVD of the unreleased concert film, Journey to the Past.The packaging looks amazing, and mad. The booklet reports to have lots of home photos and notes, and every bit of the blu-ray and DVD is packed with photos, info, posters and a lifetime of memorabilia.

So, we love this because it’s so ambitious. Has anyone even remotely tried something on this scale? We love Mr Young, he’s a true artist, and by that we mean he just doesn’t give a fuck about us. He follows his heart.

Yet – we are torn. We have so many of these tracks. We don’t listen to music on DVD, we don’t own a Blu-Ray (only just beginning to believe in it), and it seems almost worthless on CD. It’s also very expensive. And there’s 3 more volumes to come!

Finally, as is our way of thinking here – is this the future? We hope not. Few artists could pull it off (Dylan? Springsteen? Paul Simon?). Plus, we could not afford it. We waited so long – now we’re almost dreading the day.

Links and previews after the break

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Wednesday Web: Sleevage

Sleevage.com

Sleevage.com

Everyone is quick to proclaim the death of the album artwork these days. The CD gave artwork a good kneecapping. Cassettes were a humiliation not worth remembering. The digital era – it’s been left to rot. That’s not to say that people don’t love a good sleeve, and the people behind them take any less care or thought into their design.

Enter Sleevage, a humble little art site about album art.

It’s run by album art heads, and they write and talk about artwork that they’ve worked on, or just random famous sleeves with a story.

Just looking at the wall of album covers at the bottom of the homepage makes us feel good. Click through and find some amazing stories and thoughts.

What is the painting that covers Viva La Vida? Who is the boy on the cover of Nevermind? All answers are here.

Above that, there is the stories behind the banned Cannibal Corpse covers. And really fascinating, how album artwork elements are reused for singles, merchandise and more.

It’s all written with love. We only wish that there was hundreds more. A whole searchable database of album cover stories. It’s slowly starting – they take submissions. If you know album artwork people, please get them to get in touch with these guys.

Check out Sleevage here – http://sleevage.com

Certified financial planning for the Zune

Microsoft is really gunning for Apple. And their weapon of choice is price. It’s almost scare tactics. A series of ‘Laptop Hunter’ ads have been floating around, pitting PC laptops against Macs. Now, the fight is being taken to the Ipod/Zune arena.

(You know Zune, right? Craig Ferguson put it best. “Bill Gates is trying to break the iPod‘s Stranglehold on the iPod market.”)

Some crazy accounting here. I like how this guy, ‘Wes Moss’, is a certified financial planner.

Wes, by the way, was fired from the Apprentice – http://www.theapprenticerules.com/candidates/profile-wes-moss.html

OK. Let’s stop here. This is not a Microsoft bash. Although – they make it so easy.

Our problem is that this ad, and Microsoft‘s whole schtick at the moment, is misleading.

This whole price, price, price scare is – well, scary.

Putting on some dude from the Apprentice as a Financial planner, playing into families fears of the economy to stomp their wares. It reminds me of when politicians yell higher taxes into the sky in hopes of making people vote with their wallets.

And the mathematics just ain’t true. In dire economic times, does anyone want to add a new monthly bill to the burden? Who doesn’t already carry at least some music library with them? Don’t I need a new, not terribly cheap Zune to take advantage of this? And once I cancel my subscription, I can only keep 10 tracks a month. As Zune only reaches Canada and the US, if a customer moves, they have lost most of their library and have paid far more than a buck a song.

Zune is not here in Europe yet and everyone knows why. They are already struggling at home, and they don’t have what it takes to get out into the world. They really have to lift their game if they want to survive.

Our favourite Zune bashing video after the jump

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Tuesday Tunes: The Streets – He's Behind You, He's Got Swine Flu

Mike Skinner of the Streets

Mike Skinner of the Streets

We are loving Mike Skinner at the moment. His last album was brilliant (pity not many people listened), and now he’s just giving away his music, and a lot of it is pretty great.

But his new song is the best yet. It’s called ‘He’s Behind You, He’s Got Swine Flu’. It’s fun, it’s hilarious and it taps right into that strange end-of-the-world-in-a-sci-fi-way of this epidemic. There’s also a great clip to go with it that is taken from old Zombie movies.

Skinner has gone some way to say that these releases have nothing to do with his label.

We are loving this. And it sounds like Skinner is loving this as well, after two albums pretty much devoid of fun. Not sure if there is another album around the corner, but as long as he keeps giving us cool tracks like this, we’re not sure it matters.

You can grab the mp3 from here – http://bln.kr/31/

Links to Mike’s other giveaway tracks can be found here – Everything Is Microblogged

Britains Next Top Guitar Hero?

Guitar Hero - stars of stage and screen?

Guitar Hero - stars of stage and screen?

At times, it feels like we have little good things to say about reality TV or guitar hero. But do two wrongs make a right? We might find out soon. Activision, owners of Rock Band, has mentioned an interest in creating a TV show, and maybe even a tour.

OK, so we grant you the quote may well be a flippant comment on behalf of one exec. Still, the mind boggles.

Reality TV we can’t really say much about. But Guitar Hero, and it’s cousin Rockband, are just so interesting at the moment. We like the game. We were complete cynics before we tried it, and we will admit happily that it’s a lot of fun – for a bit. But it’s not a way to listen to music. It’s barely a way to discover new music.

It’s just a dead end.

All this hoopla about Metallica, Aerosmith and others, having exclusive versions of such games, is just over blown. Sure it’s great exposure, but those are some of the biggest rock bands in the world. What works for those nutty bands have never worked for anyone else. KISS coffins, anyone? We’re talking about metal and hard rock here. Most of the hard rock record shops I grew up with had more t-shirts than records. Chains, stickers, and just lots and lots of stuff. It’s cool – we own a lot of that stuff – but that’s where Guitar Hero falls into.

There is also the purist argument. Why not just learn the guitar? We get the flaw in this argument – most people can’t. It’s friggin hard. But in the long run, it’s more rewarding.

Guitar hero is also just keeping it’s head above the credibility waters. We cannot imagine those bands appearing as judges on a show. Unless Guitar Hero are REALLY making a lot of money.

(As an aside, we love the new, free, simple feature in Apple’s Garageband. It comes with free guitar and piano lessons. That warms our slightly snobby, liberal hearts)

So, who knows what TV show Guitar Hero could spawn. It should just be like Don’t Forget the Lyrics. A fun little game show for Joe The Plumber Whose Hobbie Is To Rock Out. But maybe it will be awesome, and I can happily eat my words. The music, at least, is bound to be good. More likely, if this show is ever made, it will last a season. And we will laugh about this like the Super Mario Brothers movie.

Guitar Hero Site

Ben Folds A Cappella

Folds with the Princeton Nasoons

We’ve all seen them flood youtube. Amateur and home recordings of people, every day folk like you or I, performing the music of others. Thousands upon thousands of guitarists, piano players and singers showing off their chops.

It is this phenomenon that kicked off the new album by Ben Folds. The album is called University A Cappella, and it does just what it says on the tin. It’s University A Cappella groups covering Ben Folds songs.

The idea came from Folds being sent a link of a university a cappella group performing one of his songs.

Once he decided to record these a cappella versions, he put the word out online and University groups submitted 250 versions of his songs for consideration. 14 groups make the final tracklisting, and Folds himself contributes two tracks.

It is a surprisingly varied recording. The ‘Loreleis’ stand out by being an all girl group. The female voice also counter points on You Don’t Know Me performed by ‘With Someone Else’s Money’. Folds himself flew around the US to halls, studios and whatever rooms he could find to help oversee the recordings.

We don’t see this as being a major work. It will sit along side ‘Fear Of Pop’ and the Shatner record as curiosities in Folds’ career. What is cool is how this record came together. There is a link to a video below, and seeing these kids very excited to be recording is a blast.

It all came full circle in February when the Nasoons, the a cappella group from Princeton who started it all, supported Ben Folds at a gig. So next time you put up that video of yourself playing a song, you might end up supporting the band one day!

Watch a great making of video at http://www.benfolds.com/acappella

The Future is Written. On Amazon's Kindle.

Jeff Bezos announcing the Kindle DX

Jeff Bezos announcing the Kindle DX

The big news this week from gadget land is the new, bigger, better, faster, stronger Kindle. It has yet to be released outside of the US, but it’s already making quite an impact. In short, it’s a digital reader, capable of storing thousands of books. The model released this week, the DX, is magazine sized.

We like this. We like this A LOT. We really want one.

But lucky for us, we’re in Europe and can’t actually get one yet. We think it’s one or two more versions away from really, really kicking ass.

Here’s some of the things we like about it:

– It’s a great idea. Hey, I like books. I also like some of my CD box sets, my vinyl etc. But I still have an iPod. And I have hundreds of books that I don’t want to throw out, but I don’t have the space. The e-reader is an idea whose time is almost upon us.

– The readability. Not that we have actually seen anything other than photos, but the ‘e-ink’ technology has always been Kindle’s big hook. This is not a computer screen, the thing reads like ink on paper.

– The whispernet service. Sounds like sci-fi TV show, but it’s basically the 3G book delivery service. You don’t even have to plug it into your computer. And it’s free.

– Amazon tracks all your purchases. You’ll never accidentally delete something.

– It’s robust. 3,500 books can fit on the thing. And can last two weeks on a single charge.

– The books available seem pretty cool. US only newspapers only of course, but I can see this really expanding. You can also keep your own documents on there.

– Pretty cool features. Auto rotate. Text size adjust. Dictionary included. Bookmarking. We have not ever held one, but we’ve only read decent-to-good things about the interface. Apparently there is basic web access as well.

What is bugging us:

– Colour. Really. It took the print world a while to get it together, but the time for this to happen in the digital world should be a lot less. If we are really looking at graphics rich magazines, textbooks and newspapers, then this really needs to be colour.

– The design, still a bit clunky to us.

– Price. $500US? I will have to buy a lot of books for this to become worth it. Plus you need to buy a cover for it.

– It plays music and podcasts (and has a headphone jack) but who wants an iPod the size of a small pizza?

– I wonder if you can print the odd page here and there if, for some reason, really needed to?

– There’s a big of a rigmarole involved in converting files for the Kindle. Setting up an email address, emailing your file and if you want it sent to your Kindle, there is a small fee. This has to get better.

So, lucky we don’t live in the US because we would be tempted.

But that’s all so nuts and bolts.

Imagine the possibilities! We love comics here at GLF, imagine having our favourites sent to us automatically every month? Add our favourite magazines to that thought as well.

It will be great for extended travel. But imagine a collection of Lonely Planet guides that are instantly update-able? And in interchangeable languages?

Speaking of languages…Language textbooks with embedded audio?

And speaking of embedded audio…Clinton Heylin just released a book about every Bob Dylan song. Imagine being able to hear the songs right there and then. And while I’m at it, can my Amazon Mp3s come with Kindle booklets as an option?

The possibilities are great for business. Imagine being able to send documents across a boardroom table. Have that weekly TPS report update automatically for you.

So, did we mention we love it? We also like the highly pretentious and philosophical approach they have for this device, currently painted on the front of Amazon.com. The ‘paperless’ society. I want to go to there.

We think people are more excited about the idea than the device right now. But Amazon are making big moves. This year we have seen two models and (strangely?) an iPhone app. They are rightly proud and it’s only a matter of time before all their hard work pays off, and the world at large will be ready for this.

And we’ll be right there with them.

Cool links and bad video after the jump.
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